ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog has launched an investigation into claims that streaming service Disney + pulled a series on the country’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the group’s chairman said.
Local media reports said Armenian Americans had lobbied for the show to be canceled on the grounds that Ataturk, as an officer in the Ottoman army, was tied to the mass killing of Armenians in 1915.
The Radio and Television Supreme Board decided to initiate an investigation “based on the public information” that Disney+ decided not to broadcast the series, board chairman Ebubekir Sahin said on social media late Tuesday.
Ataturk, who led the Turkish independence struggle in the years following World War I and went on to become the country’s first president, is a much-venerated figure in Turkey, where insulting his memory is a criminal offense.
Disney+ announced last month that the Ataturk series would be aired “on the 100th anniversary” of the Turkish Republic, which falls on Oct. 29.
On Monday, the Armenian National Committee of America thanked supporters of its campaign against Disney+ “glorifying” Ataturk and claimed the show had been canceled.
In a statement on Wednesday, Disney-owned FOX said Ataturk would be released as two films for TV and cinema on Oct. 29 and Dec. 22 respectively. The statement did not explain why plans for the production had changed from a TV series format or was not going to be aired on Disney+.
Omer Celik, spokesman for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, called it a “shame” that Disney+ had “succumbed to the pressure of the Armenian lobby” in reportedly canceling the series.
“This attitude of the platform in question is disrespectful to the values of the Republic of Turkey and our nation,” Celik said in a social media post.
An estimated 1.5 million people were killed in what is widely viewed as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey denies that the deaths of Armenians constituted genocide, saying the toll has been inflated and that those killed were victims of civil war and unrest.